Now that the Cowboys have clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, the million-dollar question becomes: Do they play Tony Romo?
More accurately, it’s a $20 million question.
The last time they were in this position, Wade Phillips played his healthy starters one series in the second half of a Week 17 game before lifting many. The Cowboys trailed the Redskins 13-3 when Romo left the field.
After a bye, the Cowboys lost to the Giants in the divisional round.
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The Cowboys cannot improve their postseason position in their final two games this season, and coach Jason Garrett insists all healthy players will play Monday night against the Lions.
The Cowboys close out the regular season in Philadelphia in Week 17.
“We haven’t really talked about any of the roster stuff or guys playing,” said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, parroting Garrett. “Of course, we would love to see our guys get reps and things like that. But it’s really more on what we’ve got to do to get ready for Detroit right now. We haven’t talked about that yet.”
Romo, 36, has not played in more than a year, and he played only four games in 2015. He was inactive the first nine games this season with a compression fracture in his back.
Romo has served as Prescott’s backup since, though he has yet to take a snap.
“I feel great about Tony in any aspect,” Linehan said. “Again, we haven’t talked about any of that to be honest with you. I have all the confidence in the world for obvious reasons that Tony would be ready to roll. I promise you.”
The Cowboys have to weigh Romo’s need for reps in case Prescott is injured in the playoffs with the risk of injury. Romo has been injured in three of his past five games, including the preseason.
The Cowboys do not want to put Romo in harm’s way by playing the quarterback behind a makeshift offensive line. Left tackle Tyron Smith, who has nursed a back injury all season and has not practiced this week, likely is a candidate to rest in Week 17.
Emmett Cleary, who has five career offensive snaps, is the backup left tackle since the Cowboys placed Chaz Green on injured reserve.
Linehan insists he has no problem with Romo entering the postseason without taking any snaps this season.
“I don’t really think of it that way,” Linehan said. “When you get put in a … role where something happened to the starter, you’ve got to be ready to go. It’s different. I’m sure it’s been an adjustment for him, but he’s a professional. I’m sure he would be ready to roll if we needed to call on him.”
The Cowboys also might want to protect their investment in Romo, who the team could attempt to trade in the offseason. Romo, who has a $20.8 cap hit this season, has a $14 million base and a $24.7 million cap hit next season.